Archive for the ‘sports psychology’ Category

What I Learned About Power on My Sunday Morning Run

October 5, 2008

I like to reserve Sunday mornings for my long runs so today I decided that it was time that I give myself a challenge by upping the distance to 21 k.   I haven’t run 21k for awhile, but I have been gradually increasing my activity level in the last few weeks so when that happens, the thought of a longer run just automatically enters.   The run was going quite well, but 21k is 21k. (long)   I started playing around with some nlp things about encouragement and relationship and finally power so I thought I would share them here in the case that others might be interested.

The really interesting thing about whether I was dealing with encouragement or relationship or power was that when my inner self was negative, then my outer self became tense and, hence the run became more difficult.   The more positive the relationship I had with my true self during the run, the more relaxed I was and the better I felt.  It seems quite simple and obvious,  but here is how it played itself out.   The nice thing about running is that it is an activity that you can do by yourself and in order to do it you need to have a good relationship with your own self.   So the first issue that came up was that I was trying to get someone else to have a positive relationship with me and then I found my mind trying to play with the pattern of how to get them to have a positive relationship with me.  What I realized was that I could have a positive relationship with my own self, so I dropped trying to get others to have a positive relationship with me and then suddenly an image of me running along beside me as my best friend just popped like we were running arm in arm.   At that point my body really relaxed and I just felt so great.  This was somewhere about 8-9k into the run.   I kept that image for awhile and then another issue showed up further down the roade which had much more to do with encouragement.   Encouragement is more like a positive voice that keeps you going so when the issue came up,  the voice was quite negative and critical and really didn’t want to have a relationship with me.   As I let go of the negative voice I found that the encouraging self appeared on as if it were on a bicycle next to me riding in a really relaxed way.   The encouraging self just gave me a nice plan and allowed me even more relaxation.   This happened around 12-13k.

Somewhere around 15-16k I started feeling really worn out and tired. It was already about 30 C.   I was filled with thoughts about trying to get people in authority in all kinds of situations to become powerful in a positive way to make things better.  This is a huge recurring theme in my life so I knew that since the relational and encouraging work had gone so well that I would give my powerful self a go.    What was interesting was that while the relational and encouraging selves appeared like images beside or near me, the empowered self was inside me.    I could feel it working on me feeling my body and my strength while I was running, but at the same time it was telling me where to relax.   At 18-19k I was still running at about the same pace that I was at 8-9k even when I had slowed down when the issue first appeared.

As I stayed with the empowered self it began to remind me of past runs that I had made at distance and started to get my body to run like those runs rather than running fatigued and slowed down.   So what I gained from the last part of the run was that empowerment arises when you feel your strength inside as if you are very relaxed but also feeling how strong you are.  It seems to come when I can change the focus away from other people’s power to my own memories when I felt strong in the past.

In summary, relational energy seems to be right beside me, encouraging energy is near but the focus is more auditory where as relational is visual and kinesthetic,  and empowered energy seems to be very kinesthetic feeling of being relaxed and strong at the same time that is generated from a positive memory.

If you try this exercise,  first just let the issue appear, spend some time analyzing it, and then let go of the negative energy so that you can acquire some of the positive energies.   Besides the three mentioned there is also a fourth energy, the enlightened self, which is more about guidance.   It has more to do with the issue of not finding your way, but it was not on my journey today.   When you find yourself lost or on the wrong path or on a path that someone else has lead you to, the issue usually has something to do with purity of motive.

Happy running!

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Journey to the Mountain Top in Sabah

April 7, 2008

Sabah is a federal territory of Malaysia, not a state in its own right. It is like the Yukon or the how the Northwest Territories used to be in Canada. It, like Sarawak is located on the northern part of the island of Borneo which Malaysia shares with Indonesia.

We arrive in Kota Kinabalu, K.K. to the locals, on Monday. I had just done a half marathon they day before in KL and the with the marathon of a school year coming to the final months, you can say that Debby and I are close to the wall and tired. Our plane is delayed a couple of hours so by the time we check into the Beringgis Beach Resort it is already 11:00 pm..

Beringgis has a long beautiful flat beach and even though my legs are still recovering from the half, the sand and surf invite me in for a run along the empty beach with the jungle on one side and the South China Sea on the other. It is a relaxing way to begin another adventure holiday.

beach run

Debby wants a day to relax at the beach, so I give her 2 hours before we are off on first adventure to the Garama River to see three different species of monkeys in the lush rain forest that covers the island. Our guide is a 3:15 marathon runner and because he sees my KL half t-shirt we spend quite of bit of time talking about races in Malaysia, the most famous of which is the climbathon up to 4,100 meters a top Mt. Kinabalu.

guides on the river

Later in the journey we will climb the mountain, but now we are in boat for a few hours along another beautiful river in Southeast Asia. It doesn’t get much better than this as they say. Along the way we see proboscus and silver-tipped monkeys as well as macaques. Sabah is a wonderland. It has some of the greatest wildlife adventures on the planet including some of the best scuba diving, which we will have to put aside for another holiday.

grubs big nosed

silver tip

The river trip is quite relaxing and the dinner afterwards looking over the wetlands at sunset fills us with the kind of emotion one hopes to find on a holiday. Quite magical.

sunset dinner

The next morning we are off early for a three day adventure which will take us to the highest spot in Southeast Asia. We stop at one of the local handicraft markets. Debby finds a great bag to carry more things made from the local native people. In the mainland of Malaysia the mix of cultures is Malay, Chinese, and Indian, but in Sabah the majority of people are a mixture of native tribes, like in Sarawak, followed by Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It gives Sabah a different feel, a bit more laid back. The lines between the cultures seem more blurred here and model of integration much further along. Later on, when I am interviewed at a local newspaper, my eye is struck by the interest in integration in America, which moves me, but for now Mt. Kinabalu lies ahead.

Later we have a great nature hike done by a local Chinese botanist who describes the science in the rain forest. Many of the ferns mirror the rain forest of BC and because we are at about 1500 meters now the cooler air begins to resemble our west coast of Canada. We follow the ecology walk with another great lunch, a trip to Poring Hot Springs where we leisure in the healing waters and walk along the canopy of the jungle.

flowers nature hike

butterfly gardens

You may notice or not that Debby is quite joyful and relaxed on the canopy and I am not.

canopy

It is just one of those fears that sneaks up on me so I tell myself that no one is dying and that makes it a wee bit easier. That night we stay in dormitory-like hostel at the foot of the peak in preparation for the next morning up the slope of the mountain. We have a chance to visit with a couple living in Mongolia working for the Peace Corps and then are off to bed.

hotsprings

By 6 am we are awake, 6:30 packed up, and by 7:00 am we are eating breakfast. At 8:00 am we register for the hike and meet our guide.

mountains in the morning Beginning

Andrew and Debby

His name is Andrew, 42 years old, he has two teenage boys, and is a member of the local native tribe of which most of the guides are. He is more like an angel sent to help us every step of the way. In three years he has been up the mountain more than 110 times so he keeps telling us in Malay slow and steady, slow and steady. The first day up the mountain peak begins at the Timphonon Gate which is about 1800 meters and climbs to 3100 which is 6 kilometers from the starting pointing.

Difficult, tiring, grueling, never-ending, painful, excrutiating, continuously upward. These are just a few of the adjectives to describe the first day. Mt. Kinabalu is impressive because like other high places where native people live, it is regarded as a sacred place, and so it doesn’t surprise me when I am with the Baha’i community in KK doing a presentation on dreams that several people share dreams with the mountain in it. The trail is well kept up with covered rest stops every kilometer, not like the snow-covered trail up Crown Mountain in Vancouver, but most of the way up I am thinking of my climbing partners, my son-in-laws, Chris and Shane, and how much they would love to be ascending the Mt. K.. Debby was not feeling very well in the morning and the climb proves more difficult than she had hoped, but in her true character, she musters up every bit of self discipline and determination to reach Laban Rata, the hostel 6 km up from the start. Notice the woman carrying the 20 kilos on her back and passing right by us.

day one end woman carrying goods

sunset laban rata

Because she has had diarrhea and a quezy stomach she is not able to replace the glycogen stores along the way so makes the decision, wisely not to do the summit the next day. By the time we reach the first day’s end we have already made several new friends including a young English couple, a couple for Holland, and a brother and sister from California.

Of course everyone is about the age of our children. People our age usually don’t do this kind of thing. Well there is one man and woman other than us who have some gray hair. We must be crazy, but the fellowship of pain is quite comforting and the dinner quite a welcome. At 7:30 pm we are all in bed because we have to wake up at 2:00 am to make the final 2.5 hour climb of 1000 meters to the summit. Sleeping at 3000 meters is fitful because of the lack of oxygen and many people already have headaches and are feeling nauseous. Debby shivers for awhile and then finally gets to sleep. I know that I have slept because I have a few dreams, but it is not without a lot of tossing and turning. The wake-up call comes and I am nervous but also excited.

Now it is just Andrew and myself and every step of the way I am thankful for his help. I keep thinking of Shane and Chris and hoping they get the chance that I have. Climbing at night with a flashlight is a bit of blessing because you don’t have to see how high things are. The first 40 minutes are quite vertical and I am thinking that if I have to do this for another 2 hours that I am going to be spent, but by the time you reach 7 kilometers of the 8.7 things begin to level out and the hike changes from grueling to joyous. I keep thinking to myself how joyful I feel and how wonderful it is.

At 5:30 am, 30 minutes before sunrise we reach the summit. I will let the pictures do the talking because I think they say it all.

top of the world Andrew Richard

sunrise

Climbing down a mountain always seems like a piece of cake but after a couple of hours of descending one step after another, your thighs go wobbly and so by the end you end up with legs that say thank you, thank you, for stopping. Now 2 days later, the mountain is still a strong memory in the thighs. Every step on a staircase is felt. We have a great buffet waiting for us at the bottom, but I am entirely spent after it. I sleep for part of the trip back to KK.

way down

When we arrive at the hotel downtown, we find that we only have a couple of hours before I am presenting on dreams to a group of Baha’is in the city. My mind and body say no, but the spirit beckons. Who am I to say no to it. Doing a presentation is a lot like climbing a mountain. Before the experience I always have nerves and wonder if things will go well, in the middle I just stay focused and keep presenting, and at the end have some moments of satisfaction. What is so interesting about this meeting is the openness of the people and how willing they are to go after the issues that are presented in the dreams.

Some of the Baha\'is at the Dream meeting

My worry before a meeting is always about the resistance, but in this one, there is no resistance whatsoever. Since a great deal of the community is culturally Chinese, the dreams reveal the weaknesses of Chinese culture, which is mainly about looking for the negative in others rather than the positives to try to get more improvement and then making people fearful of something bad happening if they don’t follow the path that everyone else is on. They are extremely receptive. Fortunately Baha’u’llah’s teaching emphasize over and over and over the importance of inclusion so one of the leaders in the community encourages the native Baha’is to share their dreams, and as always happens their dreams are the solution to the Chinese problems. This is the great Baha’i teaching that including diversity solves the problems that any culture is having. By the time the meeting is finished it is 11:00 pm. So I have been up since 2:00 am the same day and I am buzzing from the meeting and the day’s hiking adventure. What a day! Am I dreaming this? The next morning I am up early again because Kang, one of the local Baha’is, has arranged two interviews with newspapers. So here I am, only 5 days earlier having set foot on Sabah with no plans to do any meetings and now because of Debby’s initiative in calling some of the local Baha’is, I am now doing interviews for feature articles in two newpapers. I must be dreaming. Well both interviews go really well. In the first one the reporter asks me about a dream of her mother who has passed away some time ago and when I explain my understanding her eyes fill with tears, which come to her unexpected especially as an objective reporter. Life continues to be an astonishment. While she leaves the room I notice a framed copy of the front page of an old newspaper with the name Kennedy on it. I ask myself if it could really by about JFK, but think it is probably about a Kennedy in Sabah. So as I approach I notice that the date is May, 1963, just a few months prior to his untimely death. The article is about him delivering anti-discrimination legislation to the Congress of the United States. Later , the reporter asks me about what I think about Obama becoming president. At first I am surprised by the question and I tell her that the Baha’i teaching is to not become involved in partisan politics because they tend to be divisive, but then say, with JFK hanging up in the background, that it is quite incredible that a man who is both black and white could reach the highest office in the U.S.. My eyes begin to well up and I cannot explain the emotion. I explain to her that I did not expect to be so emotional when she asked the question. A day later as I think of the Kennedy article on the wall, I realize how much hope the world had with JFK, that even on the island of Borneo, what he attempted to do is revered. We are truly one planet and I know I am living in a dream. The rest of the day I am meeting with several people about their dreams and difficult issues in life. I look forward to my return, climbing the mountain once again, and hoping that I can help people up the mountain peaks of their lives.

“Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

Self Discipline Calling

March 27, 2008

I have to admit that when I started to feel the inner whispers that my being was calling forth the virtue of self discipline, it wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to hear.   After all, I mean let’s face it.  Self discipline is not sexy like some other energies.  When I pick self discipline out of  a virtues pile, my response is to put it right back again.   It is like looking for apple pie and getting cod liver oil.  So here I am struggling to accept what is without one shadow of a doubt the perfect answer to my current situation, but having a degree of resistance associated with it.

Ok, I know the issue.   This is my 30 year recurring nightmare.   I have had this dream 100 times easily where I go back and reenter the Air Force Academy hoping to complete what plays in the back of my mind as failure.  Everything seems to be going well, but then I wake up after awhile and say to myself, “what am I thinking?”  The Air Force Academy is a military university which prides itself on training people to have huge self discipline, but really is  a system of making you fearful of authority so that you will allow yourself to be killed in battle.  Maybe that is a bit simple, but the self never comes into self discipline in the academies because thinking for yourself and going after your own goals in a systematic, disciplined manner is certainly not the goal.  So when I think of self discipline, my mind goes back to the AFA and to the rhetoric and I wonder if I missed something.  “If I were to only go back there and finish,” my mind thinks, “then I  would have what I need.”   Fortunately I usually wake up and realize that they are about as far from self discipline as an organization could possibly get.    Putting them aside I look around for other models.

Model #1  My Mother

When my mother had back surgery a few decades ago, the doctors told her that she would be in wheel chair within 10 years.  Well she decided that they were wrong and then she set out on a daily routine of various exercises to strengthen all the muscles around her back.   She is now 86 and walks so fast that it is hard to keep up with her.  She never misses a day of exercise.  She is a marvel of self-discipline.

Model #2  My Wife

Debby was diagnosed with a torn meniscus, recommended for surgery, but went through one year of a disciplined regime of taking herbs and homeopathic remedies which cleared her of the need for surgery.   Next she lifted a heavy box one day and ruptured a disc in her back.  The orthopedic doctors recommended surgery, but she went through a series of exercise routines that she still does daily.  Her back is fine because of having the virtue of self discipline.  My guess is that not many doctors have  run into the likes of my mother and my wife so they recommend surgery and make weak predictions.  If there were more self disciplined people in the world, there would certainly be less surgeries.

Model #3  My Eldest Daughter

When Erika did her master’s thesis, she used to wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, and then write all day long.  She did this continually for several months.   The product of her work was amazing.  As a youth she used to wake up at 5:30 am several days a week to do skating practice before school.

Model #4 My Son-in-Law, Chris

Everyone knows that my other son-in-law, Shane is hard wired with self discipline, but Chris decided one day that he was lacking self discipline and dedicated a whole year to developing it mainly through an exercise program several mornings a week.   His transformation is an inspiration to me because for the other 3 women, self discipline is runs through their veins.  Chris has come to it through struggle.

What I understand from the 4 of them is that self discipline is daily and while the goal is ever present, the expectation of immediate results is not.   The results come from repetition of acts over long periods of time.    It isn’t self discipline when performance is inconsistent.    It  seems to be self discipline when the tasks are done almost like breathing.

I am looking forward to making self discipline a friend.   I am glad that it has come calling.

Maria Montessori Was Right!

March 22, 2008

Over the years Maria Montessori’s worked has received a certain amount criticism for the lack of inclusion of creative play and fantasy. If you are in a very strict Montessori program, even the personification of animals is deemed inappropriate. Well, yesterday I was working with a group of young children on the climbing wall at my school when her idea of having children do real work instead of fantasy showed itself to me very clearly.

One of the children has been bringing small leaves and flower petals to class for about a week now. What I noticed was that every time that he was supposed to climb, he began obsessing on the flower petals and then making up stories about their magical powers. The result is that his muscle development and risk taking abilities are extremely weak. Besides the fantasy, he also uses blaming others if the slightest thing goes wrong like someone else going before him in line.

Yesterday I took away his magical leaf, told him that the magic was in his limbs, and that he was going to climb. So during the climb I went with him every step of the way giving him a certain amount of physical support, but I was there mostly to make sure he stayed on the wall rather than bailing. The result was what Maria Montessori must have often observed. When this young boy was faced with fear on the wall, he wanted to jump off the wall and begged me to let him stop many times. His dialogue with me was about how scary climbing was, but every time he made it to new rocks his dialogue changed from fear to achievement. It is as if he had two voices going in his head, a fear voice and a courage voice. When I was there making him do the experiences, the voice of courage was allowed to start coming out even when the fear was very great. The more he climbed the greater the voice of courage. Given the choice, however, the magic leaves are a much easier route for him because they provide some mild comfort to ease the fearful thoughts. As Montessori put it, the fantasy becomes a defense, a coping mechanism for dealing with the real issue.

Children and adults learn best from real life experiences. Facing fear is an important part of life no matter what age we are. Besides this boy I have had several children begin to cry when the fear was extremely strong on the climbing wall. By keeping them on the wall they push through the fear and then develop strength and courage so that the next times they can do the tasks independently. While they are in the fear it is as if they become different people, but they all love it so much when they get to the achievement and happy that they went through it.

So many adults have just seemed to give into their fears these days and then allowed their children to follow. Of course with adults the fantasy is a whole way of life which includes all kinds of sophisticated strategies of avoidance which people call living. The center of the fantasy seems to be anchored by alcohol and sex. Women also seem to go for shopping and men seem to go for obsessing on their teams winning to get away from facing life. Children have TV and video games, but the real life story of the boy on the climbing wall shows that the fantasy life is a way of coping with fear that is very temporary at best. Maria Montessori was right. Let’s get real and go after our fears.   We just need some support to stay in the experience.

On Watching a Badmintion Match in China

November 29, 2007

Playing badminton in Asia is much more than than setting up the equipment that you bought at a $10 K-Mart special and then hitting the birdie a few times during your family picnic. It is a major sport and is taken quite seriously. The dominant country is the one you would expect, the biggest, China. Almost all of the world’s #1s in each category come from China. Last week was the China Open and its matches played to pack arenas cheering wildly for the home team. All of this you would expect like watching the NBA or NHL in North America.

What I didn’t expect to see in China of all places was the rather prominent VIP section which the cameras seemed to show between during every break of play. When the the NBA plays on TV in LA or New York, the camera tries to find movie stars or other celebrities because that is what America has become which it finds no embarrassment in. At the China Badminton Open, the VIPs not only got the camera, but they also were sitting in luxury boxes and were served drinks and food with real dishes in plain view of everyone else.

Watching the badminton was thrilling especially when a young Malaysian woman ( I live in Malaysia) beat the #1 Chinese woman in singles, but it struck me as quite peculiar that in a country whose political doctrine is based upon having a classless society, that  this kind of action is justified with no apparent shame.   The theory of communism is based upon equity, that no one is seen as higher or better than anyone else.  The VIP section  makes it very apparent that the China does not believe its own rhetoric.   In Malaysia there is no shame about VIPs because the country has a king and queen and sultans for each state.  They give them an honored place at events because it fits with the country’s model, but in China the actions do not fit with the words.   What the government is saying and what it is doing are two different things.

I don’t mean to single out China for this kind of behavior because the disconnection between words and actions is certainly not unique to China.  Democratic countries like the U.S. have a great deal of rhetoric about people having an equal voice and equal opportunity,  but if you have a voice of opposition toward your employer, you can bet that democratic values will be thrown out the window and so will you.    We all know that in the western world money and position gives you more of a voice.

The badminton was magnificent, obviously the highest quality in the world.   The mismatch between words and deeds is always settled on the court in sport,  but you have to wonder about having a VIP section in China and what effect that has the people.

Radical Change means Changing Everyday

October 15, 2007

climb.jpg

Earlier this week I had a dream that goes to the heart of what my blog is all about and what the book I am writing is hoping to communicate that really truly radical change is an evolutionary process of working hard every single day to change my life for the better. In the dream there was a young person who was having a problem in his life so I took out a flip chart and made a drawing and explanation of what the problem was and how to solve it and then told him. When he tried to apply it, he totally failed as if he hadn’t heard a single thing I was saying. I became intensely angered and started yelling what he should do, but still no response.

My dream goes to the heart of the change dynamic. A major change does not suddenly happen with one explanation and then an attempt at an application. This is not to say that the explanation is not important, but it is only the beginning and not the whole process. The big negative emotion in the dream, anger, let me know that there was a part of my self that still needed a lot of work. Anger is the mirror emotion meaning that when you are angry at someone else it really is a sign of having something about yourself that you are having trouble changing. If you already have the quality or process, you can be much more detached and patient.

So then I began the inner work to find what I am so angry about inside for not changing. What I found is that, even though I have made a lot of progress in the issue in the past, I needed to have the quality of being more outgoing with others. Since being friendly and outgoing is a spiritual quality, it means that it is infinite in its actualizations. It means that no matter how much I have worked on it, there will be more ahead.

Why I need to be more out there is clear in the dream, because I am in the role of being a teacher and helper which means that I can’t hold back with people.

Changing always means having the goal of actualizing more of your true self and working with the negative energy inside that presents the issue. So after the dream when I realized that I was so impatient with the change process, I practiced being patient and encouraging in my classes and the effect was amazing especially with the really weak students. I realized that I could set what I initially thought would be too small of a goal for them on the first day and then increase the goal each day thereafter. I began to notice the progress in the students who were having a great deal of fear. Every time they approached the climbing wall and made one more step or made a big effort I let them know.

Then all of sudden, in one class, three boys climbed up to a place where they have to have to ring a bell and then jump down onto landing mats. This was a great deal more than I had expected, but the really interesting thing was that my class arrived early so that sat and watch the boys do their acts of bravery and receive due recognition. Immediately when the new class came in, a young girl, who had not done very much up to that point, came up to me and asked me if I could help her ring the bell. I said, “of course, let’s go for it.” And she not only rang the bell but she worked much harder on all of the tasks for the rest of class. It was a magical moment for her.

The point is that radical change is about staying in your process and working each moment to get better. Pretty simple.

Organizing Your Emotional Space to Get More Time to Play

September 8, 2007

I was very inspired when I read my daughter’s blog about sorting beans with Olee, our grandson the other day. See http://hoogliart.wordpress.com. I think Maria Montessori was one of the first educator’s to see how organization of space really gives children a great deal of freedom to play and explore. Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to work together with a number of my colleagues to apply her teachings. What happened was quite incredible!

swim-1.jpg

Being a product of the 60s you can imagine that I might have some difficulties conceptualizing how play and creativity can work together with order and control. The 60s were instrumental in bringing out the evils of leadership by control and self interest so for many people of our era, when we think of conrolling an environment, we think of people who had the wrong motives. Organization for accumulation of selfish desires still may be a huge reality in the world, but yesterday it finally clicked for me why order is so important when you are doing something for the right reasons.

The event that we planned was a swim meet for students from grades 2-5. We had four hours, two two-hour sessions to complete 110 swimming races. What was incredible to me at day’s end was that we finished each session 20 minutes early. That is two groups of 160 swimmers each. You can do the math, but however you calculate, that is a lot of play in a short period of time. When I think of about it, it was all about the organization of space. Military order paled to us yesterday.

We planned where students had to sit while they were waiting for races to be called, where they had to sit after their races were called, which lane they were to swim in, and where they were to go when they finished each race. The adults all had a program with the list of all races and lane assignments, the volunteers all had written instructions of what to do at their jobs, and well if you have ever done a swim meet or track meet, you know that it takes a lot of people and organization. Because of the organization all the athletes had to do was to focus on their play, the swimming. The heat numbers were written on their arms so all they had to do was listen for their heat, go to the marshaling area, and then jump in the pool and swim. They were absolutely wild with enthusiasm and joy.

The results: Every child in the school participated in at least one to four races and everyone received at least one ribbon. It was magical. We even had to take a 10 minute break in the 2nd session because of thunder and a small amount of rain, but still we finished 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

The planning group was extraordinary. Everyone worked together with no self interest, just the joy of doing great work. So a day later I am thinking about the excuse that I have already mentioned previously in other posts, that people say that they don’t have time to play and now after yesterday, I am certain that the issue is not about time but the fear of being in the play space.

field-day.jpg

Unlike most children who can’t be held back from play, many adults seem to be blocked when it comes to participating in play. For them it is emotional. The underlying emotion that inhibits play the most is the fear of being criticized. Children are immune to its deadly effects for a time mainly because they are around other children who love to play, but gradually they drink in its venom especially when other expectations in their lives like academics are raised until the joy of play is sapped right out of them.

The key for me in recapturing the joy of play of childhood is the ability to organize the emotional space in my life, to bring order to my emotions so that my positive energy can shine through. Criticism is the great epidemic of our time, far more deadly than any pandemic the scientists may predict because it kills a person soul and their bodies. It is so commonplace that it is even often regarded as a virtue, but it kills nonetheless.

What is the vaccine that will get adults back in the pool and into play? It is simple. Find something positive about yourself and others and say it. This changes everything. You just let go of the negative thoughts that come in by dealing with them on your own in your meditation or with the help of others, but you don’t express them in an aggressive way outward. When you recognize positive things that are happening, you express them outwardly. This has the effect of making play very inviting. Then people can experiment and make all kinds of mistakes and the great learning and fun can happen.

Further Notes on Leadership: Dealing with Frustration

August 28, 2007

In my last post I was writing about a 5 year old boy whose primary presenting negative emotion is frustration. Frustration is what you feel when you are trying to accomplish something, but you are not making the progress you were hoping. It is different than disappointment which is feeling you get after the experience is over. With frustration you are still trying, but still failing.

soccer.jpg

The spiritual solution to frustration is always in the area of the virtues associated with patience. Patience is the ability to slow down time to a standstill so that other solutions can appear or other things can happen first. If you are frustrated as a student or an athlete, it usually means that you are not patient enough to try new strategies or solution because you are too rushed to get to the goal. To overcome frustration there is always a slowing down process so that new solutions can enter.

When frustration presents itself into a situation like my 5 year old, it usually means that there isn’t enough patience in the environment. This is sooooo interesting!!!! In the meetings I have done on dreams I usually put out cards with the names of virtues like courage, enthusiasm, honesty, compassion, etc.. I always put out 2 cards that say patience as opposed to putting out only one of every other virtue. Both patience cards are always taken.

So why is frustration such a big issue and why do we seem to need a lot more patience? It should actually come as no surprise because the more sped up the culture gets, the faster we go to keep up with it. We can’t slow down to find new solutions because we are already in the super fast lane.

I think the real key is the ability to slow down internally. So here is the epilogue of my 5 year old which is what I think leadership is all about. All of his teachers, the school counselor, one of his parents, and the nanny all got together for the purpose of discussing what we could differently. The meeting lasted for over an hour. Everyone was allowed to share openly and frankly. It was an extremely positive environment where a few decisions and a lot of suggestions were made.

So today he came to class and participated fully attending to every activity. He was quite amazing. His coordination still is not great, but he is on the right path. A little bit of patience, i.e. slowing down, seems to go along way.

The group showed how a decentralized process can work. The people closest to where the actual action is take the authority to work together to improve a problem situation. Everyone is given a voice, everyone listens to each other, and then change begins to happen.

The Leaders We Are Looking For Are Inside Our Ownselves

August 25, 2007

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Last week during one of my physical education classes with my 5 year olds I witnessed and incredible act of leadership that left me with a great feeling of hope. I have a young boy in one class whose frustration tolerance on a scale from 1-10 is minus 6 or 7. He has had a melt down in each of first 5 or 6 classes, but during my last class something interesting happened. I had the students work in pairs throwing and catching balls back and forth. Now my frustration boy had had almost zero attention in other tasks, but on this day he was paired with someone who had almost no English which immediately thrust him into a helping position. He watched the task, decided he could do it, and started working with his partner. He acted extremely patient and encouraging with his partner, showing him what to do and being the perfect leader. I was shocked, but so pleased that I immediately wrote it down in my notes after class because it was the first really positive sign that he had ever shown.

I am not so sure what happened inside for him to make that kind of click, but it was clear to me that he had become a leader on that afternoon because he was practicing the virtue of helpfulness. It just made me realize that leadership is no longer a function that can be described as a top-down function. We seem to mostly make jokes about those who still are appointed to positions highest up on the hierarchical ladder because leadership can no longer be directed by one person, if it ever could. Those who try to force their wills by reason of position have found themselves isolated and unsupported. Their days are obviously numbered. The only people who are thriving are those that have turned decision making into a collective process and worked to empower members of an organization through capacity building and decentralization.

The world has turned upside down on its head because now the best leaders are not those who are decisive and willful, but those who support the development of leadership and decision making abilities in everyone in the organization. My 5-year-old melt down specialist became a leader in my class. How can I support him to be a leader all the time?

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When You Plan, Space Comes First, NOT Time

August 13, 2007

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There were a lot of workshops in the 1970s when I was first introduced to much of the self help literacy about the importance of time management because it was the thinking in those days that how you manage your time has a lot to do with accomplishing what you want in your life. Time is money so the saying goes. It was a logical way to approach the accomplishment of a task. Nowadays people aren’t so naive as back then because most people with any common sense now believe that time is a lot more flexible, that it is much more internal than external, and that you usually accomplish the most and love life the most, when you ignore time. We realize, for instance, that we can actually slow time to a virtual standstill so that we can eat a long relaxed meal with our families or take a walk with our friends. I don’t think anyone believes time is money anymore, do they? Anyway, it is a pretty foolish idea that I once believed.

What I have only recently begun to explore that is proving to be extremely valuable is how much more flexible space is. I mean I really get the time thing. If I slow way down internally, I accomplish much more because I can stretch time so that I seem to have much more of it. What I didn’t realize was that I can also change space. I am only really at the very beginning stages of learning this quality. I am sure most people are way beyond me.

Here is an example of why it is becoming more apparent to me. When my wife and I were flying from Vancouver to Los Angeles recently, we thought we had arrived at the airport early enough to get on our flight, but because of the long lines, we only made the flight by a couple of minutes. Then the steward said that 12 other people were not let on. Imagine that! The plane couldn’t wait another 10 minutes to get the other passengers on. It actually shocked me so I began naming countries in my mind where they would have waited. The steward said and this is not a joke, that they had waited during the last flight to the same destination, but because their on-time record would be published in a journal or something like that, that their reputation depended not on whom they left behind , but only on being on time. So here is an airline whose purpose is to carry people from one destination to another, but being on time is more important to them than accomplishing their purpose. People lost their space because the airline management was only thinking of time.

So I am thinking to myself that the people that are controlling my space are mostly just concerned about making everything happen much faster. Ok then, so most of us believe that “time is money” is ludicrous. Right? We have common sense, but it also appears as if the people managing an awful lot of major corporations don’t really care too much about the space you are in because they still believe that time is the important thing, and that the faster things go, the more money they will make. It is just hard for me to believe that so many really stupid people are running large corporations and governments.

So, the fact that we know that slowing down time is possible means that we are ahead of the game, but the fact that they control my space unnerves me. My first task is to gain control over my space. What to do? I’ve got it. I will just think about the space I want to be, focus and meditate on it, and then just not care how much time it takes to get there. I will just slow down time, and walk right into the space. Now that is pretty simple.

Hmm. I am thinking of a hot cup of coffee.

Radical Change and Space: Good Morning Vietnam!

August 8, 2007

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Last April my wife and traveled to Vietnam.  So here I am in the middle of Hanoi about 9 am in the morning faced with the challenge of crossing a busy street with 2 million motorcycles and no traffic lights.   This could possibly be a North American’s worst nightmare because in the U.S. pedestrians have all of the rights even when they are wrong.  Not so in Hanoi.   So I do the illogical thing and it works.  I just start walking slowly across the street without stopping.  No one hits me because they seem to know how to make space for what is happening around them.   For some reason my intuitive mind already knows this before I take my first steps.

This exercise in walking across the street fascinates my mind so I begin to think about how they are able to give me the space to cross the street.   In their minds they are trying to get from one space where they began their journey to another space where they will end it, but before they start they seem to already understand that there are many other people in the space who are also doing the same thing.  It is as if a whole culture has built itself around the idea that you can move from one space to another and respect others who are doing the same thing.

In the western materialistic world the space thing seems to be about how much space you can take up and then protecting the space that you call yours. Your worth is calculated by how much space you have in the most highly valued areas.   Financial worth is not calculated by how much space you are able to share or how well you live in the same space with others, but how much space you own.

What seems ironic to me is that 90% of pop music and a large percentage of the movie industry focuses its time and energy on the value of closeness, i.e. love. which is the ability to be in the same space at the same time harmoniously with no concern whatsoever about ownership.   So, on the one hand, a part of us  values being in the same space at the same time, but the material world values separation.  If you have a lot of material space, you are worth a lot of money, but being able to share a space is not valued financially at all.  What if, instead of the amount of space being worth lots of money, the ability to share space was what determined your wealth.  Now that would be radical change.   Let’s face it people who share space well are the happiest and lead the best lives.

Have you ever noticed that dance clubs where there are so many people that you can hardly breathe and the music is so loud that you cannot have a conversation are the ones that are most valued?  What is that about?  Not too many people like to dance on a big dance floor where there are not many dancing.   There seems to be too much space which is quite discomforting.

I am just wondering why one of the world’s largest real estate moguls who has had several divorces is seen as so successful.  There are so many of his books in practically every bookstore in the world lauding his value.  So he has a lot of material space, but he doesn’t know how to share space very well.  Is that what we call successful?   I guess you may have surmised that I won’t be reading any of his books.

I am not all that against having a space I can call my own, but I really love sharing my space with others.   I have lived in the same room with my wife for the last 33 years.  Now that ought to be worth something.  Don’t you agree?   It’s certainly better than owning half of city,  but not being able to live closely with others.

Let’s see, the wealthiest man in the world is trying to give away most of his wealth to solve the world’s problem.  You gotta love that, but will he share the space of who decides what to do with the money?  I think maybe sharing space and the wealthiest man in the world is an oxymoron in today’s world, but you gotta love that he wants to give it away to help others.   Hmmm. Another radical change, sharing the space of decision making.   How many CEOs want to do that?

I wonder what other kinds of space we can share.

How God is Preparing Me for Life with My Grandson

July 10, 2007

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Olee was born in November, 2005. He is my second grandson. About 2 weeks after he was born I started teaching 5 and 6 years olds wall climbing at my school for the very first time. I was learning just as much as they were especially about how to use all 4 limbs on the wall. Call it coincidence if you don’t believe in spiritual things, but the other day I was at one of Vancouver’s beaches and I noticed that Olee, at 20 months was climbing over a set of logs using all 4 limbs and figuring his way over them just the way wall climbers do. Then, yesterday when my son-in-laws and I were doing an 8 hour hike up Crown Mountain, we came to a place where we had to use all 4 limbs to scale rocks. It dawned on me at that point that maybe the reason I was fired from my other job and given this one teaching 5-6 years, which I had never done before, was to not only assist them, but also to prepare me to relate and be with my grandson.

The two years that I have been teaching 5 years olds have really helped me to combine playfulness, structure, and creativity which have made life with grandchildren very enjoyable.

Today as I reflect it really makes me realize that God is much more in charge of my life that I can possibly even imagine. You have to love the way God works. What a sweet and gentle hand He has.

What else is He preparing me for?

Cruisin’ with Diego: One of 3 role models

July 7, 2007

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Diego is my youngest grandson, 18 months. He is my inspiration in every way by the way he lives his life. Whatever Diego does, that is what I am going to start doing. I have begun training for another marathon and realize that his training regime is much better than any I have read in any magazine. This is Diego’s method. As soon as his bedroom door opens in the morning he flies down the hall running as fast as he can. When the gate is opened in the backyard, he immediately starts running. He doesn’t look back to see if anyone is watching. He just goes full speed ahead. When we are at the park, he finds a green spot and just runs.

Last night we were all sitting around after dinner with some of my daughters’ friend’s children watching the kids play on the swing set. I brought out a couple of plates of fresh strawberries and raspberries. Diego came back to the plate for more at least 15 times long after the strawberries disappeared. Then he went after the strawberry bushes that only had green ones on them. His appetite was relentless and unending. He barely had time to chew what was in his mouth before he came after the next one.

So I thought to myself, if only I could live life a little more like Diego. Get up, role out of bed, and start running and then have such a great appetite for life that it can’t be filled. What a life! Thanks for being my teacher, Diego.

The Mother of All My Fears: Exclusion

July 6, 2007

This year I am celebrating the 10 anniversary of the first time that I was ever fired from a job. I was a small child in the 1950s when loyalty was still a value in society. I still tend to believe too much in the leadership and stay too long in organizations because I still believe that the leaders want to do something good in society and are not in it for themselves. Call me naive and leave it at that. The second time I got fired was 3 years ago. It is still much fresher in my psyche than the first. Call me a slow learner. Both times I was under the illusion that I was doing my best work ever when I got fired.

Up until 10 years ago being fired had never entered my mind as a possibility so when it happened I felt devastated and betrayed like nothing I had ever experienced before. My firing, along with some of my other colleagues, was couched in the language of today. “We are not renewing your contract because we are changing the direction in the organization.” It would have been much nicer to hear the words, “you’re fired”.

I had a year off after my first firing and another year off after the second one, so both times I took that time to reconnect to my self by running marathons. In 1997 I trained for one marathon, but 3 years ago I felt so betrayed that I had to do two to get myself together. terryfox1.jpg On the 10th anniversary of my big separation I have decided that I would do some preventive medicine by training for another marathon. When I get up in the morning and have a run, I get reconnected with myself. It is a bit like taking a magical pill. Everything seems right with the world. When I am not running is when I feel the worst about myself.

I have no illusions about leadership anymore, but I still have a fear of being fired. I am not sure that it will ever fully leave or whether it is supposed to leave because being disconnected from people is a painful thing. Thank God for facebook and thank you Generation and X and X/Y for turning this baby boomer onto it.

Hope to see you all on the road. Did I say that I am going to run the marathon in Kuala Lumpur? See you at the twin towers.